Optimize for Google and humans
Because your headline gets a header (<h1>) tag on the portal, it can deliver huge SEO benefits. To take advantage of this opportunity, use a keyword in your headline.
Here’s how to write SEO headlines:
1. Choose a keyword.
That’s one keyword. You can hurt your ranking in search results — and render your page unreadable — by cramming your headline with keywords and phrases.
2. Lead with that topic word.
Next, place your keyword within the first seven words of the headline.
Not only will that get you lots of “Google juice,” but it will make it easier for real readers to find your piece in indexes, as well.
That’s because headlines have less than one second to get attention in indexes, search engine results pages and other story lists, according to Eyetrack III, The Poynter Institute’s latest study of how people read online.
That means people are reading only the first word or two of your headline. If they don’t get your topic in the first 11 characters or so, says Jakob Nielsen, they might never get it at all.
3. Don’t bury the topic word.
Notice what happens when you write a traditional news head:
Wylie Communications introduces new digital-PR-writing workshop
The words your readers are looking for — digital-PR-writing workshop — are buried beneath five words. The information readers will see, the first 11 characters, don’t give any information about the topic.
So drop the company name or move it from the front of the headline. Even the wire services no longer require company names in the first position in the headline, says John B. Williams, regional director of PR Newswire.
Benefits headlines can bury the topic words, too:
- How to Write the News Release 2.0: May 13 webinar shows communicators how to help Google find your site, reach readers online and more
- Go Beyond the Inverted Pyramid: April 22 webinar shows communicators how to increase readership with the feature-style story structure
- Get the Word Out With Social Media: March 25 webinar shows communicators how to write blog postings, tweets and other status updates that expand their reach and influence online
The first 11 characters, which appear highlighted, hide the topic from your readers.
How to lead with the topic word. So how do you push the topic word to the front of your headline? Here are three techniques to try:
A. Write a kicker. Add the topic word to the front of your headline as a kicker. On the web page, it looks like this:
Digital PR writing workshop
SEO for writers: Help Google find your site
Communicators learn to write releases that reach readers online on May 13 in Atlanta
B. Write a simple sentence. A subject-verb-object sentence pushes the topic, or subject, to the front of the headline.
Feature-style stories increase readership
Communicators learn to go beyond the inverted pyramid in this April 22 writing webinar
C. Write a label head. I know, I don’t like these either. But it works!
Social media writing webinar
Communicators learn to write blog postings, tweets and other status updates that expand their reach and influence online in this April 22 program
All of these approaches have some benefits and obstacles. My advice? Choose one approach and stick with it.
4. Make your headline your page title.
Finally, multiply your Google juice by making your headline your page title, too.
Optimize for humans as well as Google.
From an SEO perspective, the headline is the most essential part of a your piece. Not only is it the first thing your readers will see, but it might be the only thing your reader bothers to read at all.
“Write your headline for a human, not a search engine,” counsel the pros at Business Wire. “The initial key performance indicator of a press release is to encourage your reader to click through the headline, read, engage and share your content.”
Sources: “Search Engine Optimization In 2018 (The Strategies That Will Win),” Ignite Visibility, 2018
Rand Fishkin, “How to Rank in 2018: The SEO Checklist,” Dec. 29, 2017
“Five Easy SEO Tricks to Improve Your Next Press Release,” Cision, November 2017
Shel Holtz, Get found: Writing for SEO, RevUpReadership.com, Aug. 8, 2015
Business Wire, A Guide to Press Release Optimization, 2015
Lee Odden, “SEO for Public Relations,” Public Relations Society of America 2009 International Conference, Nov. 9, 2010
Thomas Petty, “How to SEO Your Content: 16 places to put your keyword phrase,” YOAST, 2018